I’ve always loved reading. I’m always in the middle of at least one book, and usually more! When I was a kid, I’d stay up way past my bed time reading. Heck, I
sometimes often do that now.
But then, in 2009, I had my first kid. I was working a demanding, full time job. And then, of course, I had a second shift when I got home.
I was barely getting enough sleep and I got to a point where I realized I didn’t remember the last book I’d read that wasn’t some version of “how to get your kid to sleep”.
And I missed reading for pure pleasure.
I wanted that joyous escapism of reading back.
And so in 2013, when my kids were 2 and 4, I decided to start tracking what I read hoping to cash in on that quote “what gets measured gets managed”.
And so I started a spreadsheet and I got to tracking.
And it worked! That first year, I went from reading just a few books a year for pleasure, to reading 35! (And only 1 of them was a parenting book; I just checked!)
Over the next several years, I maintained an average of about 23 books a year. (Not too shabby for a full time working parent, IMHO!)
But then in 2021, I read 75 books.
And as I write this in October of 2022, I’ve just finished my 59th book of the year.
So, what happened? Did I find a secret wormhole to take me back in time and let me read more? Did I somehow gain more time in the day? Did I stop sleeping? Nope, nope and nope!
Here’s what happened: I embraced the audiobook.
And I have COVID to thank.
Previously, I’d always been a paper book type of person. I love the feel of books. Their heft. Their scent, even. I had a hand-me-down Kindle, but I didn’t use it.
But then COVID happened, and I wasn’t going to the library in person anymore. And I was out of the country for about a year where it wasn’t really feasible to lug heavy books around. So first, I embraced eBooks. And once I’d managed to get over the mental hump that a book must be made from paper, I made my way over to audiobooks. And I haven’t looked back. I haven’t given up paper books or eBooks altogether. But audiobooks have given me a way to get way more reading into my life.
Now, you might be thinking “But is listening really reading? Isn’t that cheating?” (And I know you might be thinking this because I, myself, have had this thought before.)
But here’s the thing: Research shows that there is no significant different in reading comprehension or recall when you are reading vs. listening to a book.
And I’m going to call my own self out here in saying that to call audiobooks “cheating” is a very privileged and ableist viewpoint.
Here’s another way to think about it: When you read to your kids (or someone else’s) do you find yourself thinking “They’re not getting anything out of this because they’re only listening”. No, of course not!
So now that we’ve established that audiobooks are just as legitimate as paper books, let’s talk about how audiobooks can help you read more:
- You can read faster —As you listen, your comprehension speed increases. I started out at 1x, but after awhile, that felt too slow. So I ratcheted up the speed. Now, I regularly listen to books at between 1.5x and 2x, depending on the narrator. (And if I try to listen at 1x now, the narrator sounds drunk to me; it feels unbearably slow.)
- You can read while doing other things — When you’re reading a physical book, the only thing you’re doing is reading. But when you’re listening to an audiobook, the world is your oyster. You can listen while exercising, while doing chores, while driving. When you listen to books, not only does it make the other activity more fun, but you are able to open up so much more time for reading in your day, when you otherwise would have just been exercising, or doing the dishes, or chauffeuring your kids all around town.
Want to kick start your reading habit by dabbling in audiobooks? Here are a couple of resources to get you started.
- Libby – Get free audiobooks, using your library card. Download them from the comfort of your own phone. Sometimes you do have to wait for a book to become available.
- Audible – While this service comes with a fee, you’ll never have to wait. Instant gratification.